The summer is coming to an end and Kevin Bieksa is still looking for a place to play.
These are unchartered waters for the former Vancouver Canucks defenceman, who turned 37 this offseason.
After spending the past three years with the Anaheim Ducks, Bieksa is likely facing the possibility of having to accept a pro tryout contract or leave the league altogether, provided a late offer doesn’t come his way.
That would seem unlikely at this point, given he failed to score a goal and had just eight assists in 59 games with the Ducks last season, the worst of his career. Advanced stats suggest he was a liability defensively too, as his Corsi-for percentage (44.5%) was the worst among regular Ducks defencemen.
Bieksa missed the final month of the regular season after undergoing surgery to remove scar tissue from his left hand. He returned for one game in the playoffs, playing just 13:11, before the Ducks were swept by San Jose.
If this is the end of the line for the 13-year NHL veteran, it’s been one heck of a ride for a player who was a long shot to make it. Drafted in the fifth-round of the 2001 NHL Draft, Bieksa was a late bloomer. He played four years of NCAA hockey before playing a season and a half in the AHL.
Bieksa made his NHL debut in December of 2005 and was named the team’s top defenceman the following season.
A veteran of 808 NHL games, Bieksa ranks eighth all-time in goals (56) by a Canucks defenceman, sixth in assists (185), and sixth in points (241). Bieksa is also the all-time leader in playoff goals by a Canucks blueliner, which includes one of the famous ones in franchise history.
If he does retire, Bieksa will join a list of players from the 2011 Canucks that have left the league in recent months.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin retired in April, while Alex Burrows retired after being bought out by the Ottawa Senators, and Jannik Hansen signed a contract to play in the KHL. Just six players from the greatest Canucks team ever currently have NHL contracts: Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Ryan Kesler, Dan Hamhuis, Cory Schneider, and Roberto Luongo.